IT'S EASY BEING CHEESY
I get a lot of recipe inspiration from the culinary traditions of the Middle East. Part of my appreciation for the cuisine comes from fond memories of my travels to Israel as a child, eating unfamiliar food in an unfamiliar place, my first time outside of the US.
Aside from the nostalgia though, I'm intrigued by the shared appreciation for food across many different people. In a time of indefatigable conflict, the love of hummus is a salient unifier. The origins of many foods of the Middle East are barely traceable, yet coveted by all who live in the region. Falafel for example, is enjoyed by Arabs, Christians and Jews alike, yet no one truly knows who "discovered" the delicacy first. In a way, food in the Middle East is a common denominator, or a shared language amongst groups of people that normally cannot understand each other whatsoever- both literally and figuratively.
Many progressive chefs believe in this concept, and want to use food to bring people together. Here's a quote by Jerusalem's Yotam Ottelenghi (Jewish), about his relationship with his co-author Sammi Tamimi (Palenstinian).
"It's funny because we are not those labels, we're just two people. We're quite similar in many ways and that similarity transcends everything else. We're not political animals. In a sense, we're not really good representatives of our own culture. So it's very easy for us to get on. And we love the same kind of food, we love celebrating food, and eating wonderful things and cooking hummus."
Politics aside, in honor of my love for Middle Eastern cuisine, I threw together a magical dish of fried halloumi with delicious fixings on top. Enjoy!
- halloumi (cut into 1 inch in width rectangles)
- mint (7 leaves, torn)
- 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
- 2 tbs honey
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 peach, sliced
- 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbs maple syrup
- 1 tbs of zaa'tar
- salt and pepper
- 4 tbs olive oil
In a saucepan, add olive oil, onions, peaches, salt and pepper. Cook down until onions are translucent. Then, add vinegar, zaa'tar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 45 mins.
Meanwhile, add 2 tbs olive oil in a pan. Bring to high heat. Sear the halloumi on both sides (2 mins ea.). Take the halloumi off the heat and cool.
Assemble the halloumi with peach and onion on top, walnuts, sprinkle of honey and mint.